1: Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Established in 1972, the GGNRA is a collection of landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area. It would probably take a good week to explore everything this area has to offer. I visited this site on a family vacation to San Francisco in January of 2020.

Golden Gate Maps | NPMaps.com - just free maps, period.
Map of Golden Gate National Recreation Area

I don’t have many photos of my first NPS site because I had no idea what I was doing but here are a couple shots of Alcatraz Island.

The Alcatraz Landing Area, with a small crowd dressed in warm jackets gathering around a National Park ranger for more information. Above, a sign that says UNITED STATES PROPERTY has been painted over to say INDIANS WELCOME, UNITED INDIAN PROPERTY, INDIAN LAND.
A view on the main promenade on Alcatraz Island. A concrete pathway with puddles in the foreground with a water tower that reads PEACE AND FREEDOM, WELCOME HOME OF THE FREE INDIAN LAND. In the background we see part of San Francisco bay and the surrounding lands.

I remember the ferry and the island itself being very wheelchair accessible. There are some fairly large inclines so you’d be best with a motorized option. There is also a motorized tram that will bring you around the island.

It was at the tiny gift shop near the dock that this little beauty caught my eye.

The Passport To Your National Parks, a small blue wallet-sized book with gold lettering and a logo of the US flag and an eagle.

I asked the gift shop attendant how it worked and she kindly directed me to the outdoor stamp table where I got my very first stamp.

The inside of the Passport book, with a blank space for a stamp. Below, a Golden Gate NRA: Alcatraz Island round stamp with the date Jan 11, and a large rectangular stamp that says RED POWER: ALCATRAZ INDIAN LAND ’69. Both stamps are green which is the color of all stamps in the Western Region.

My very first stamp! This stamp’s year was out of date so I settled for just Jan 11. I also got a special stamp commemorating the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz from 1969-1971. I later cannibalized this little stamp book as I outgrew it rather quickly.

Alcatraz has a fantastic self-guided audio tour but you can also request an American Sign Language interpreter to guide you through the park (with at least 3 weeks notice!).

I had a lot of mixed feelings visiting a prison site when we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The solitary confinement rooms were especially disturbing. I did appreciate the decision to highlight the Indian Occupation front and center. It is a story I never would have known had the NPS not taught me. (For a brief introduction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_Alcatraz)

Alcatraz will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where I bought my first passport book and got my first stamp. Definitely a must-do attraction if you are in San Francisco!

After Alcatraz, we also walked around the Golden Gate Bridge and were treated to some fantastic views. Fort Point is a civil war era fortification on the southside of the bridge. It is also a NPS site but it was closed when we were in the area.

The Golden Gate Bridge spans San Francisco Bay with Fort Point in the foreground.

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